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Understanding Key Differences Between FMLA, Short-Term Disability, and Social Security Disability

fmla vs short term disability vs ssd, image of paper that reads disability insurance claim next to penWhen you have suffered an injury or have been diagnosed with an illness, your first thought may be, “What do I do about work?” Fortunately there are several options available but it’s important to understand which one best fits your situation as well as the limitations they may have.

In Illinois, your options include Family and Medical Leave Act, short-term disability, and Social Security disability benefits. Your eligibility for each option will depend on several factors such as how long you have been injured or will be ill, where you work, and how long you have been with your employer.

In This Article:

Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a serious health condition that renders them unable to perform essential job functions. FMLA leave allows you to prioritize your health and recovery without fear of losing your job, as it guarantees employment upon return. It’s important to note, however, that FMLA does not guarantee the same position only one equivalent to the one you had before.

One major benefit of FMLA is that it also applies when an eligible employee must miss work to care for a loved one with a serious health condition. FMLA also guarantees continued coverage by your employer’s group health insurance during FMLA leave.

However, not all employees qualify for FMLA, and not all employers are obligated to offer it. To receive FMLA, the following must be true:

  • Employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months for a qualifying employer.
  • Private employers are mandated to provide FMLA if they have 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius for at least 20 workweeks.
  • Public agencies must offer FMLA regardless of employee count.

While FMLA offers job security and health insurance continuity, its unpaid nature may pose financial challenges you if your family relies on your income. Thus, individuals should carefully consider their eligibility and financial circumstances before opting for FMLA leave.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability insurance offers financial support to employees unable to work due to a medical condition or injury for a short duration, typically three to six months, but potentially up to a year. Payments commence after a waiting period which varies among policies and can range from two weeks to 30 days.

The amount disbursed depends on the policy and the employee’s salary. Unlike worker’s compensation, short-term disability covers injuries or illnesses regardless of whether they occurred on the job.

You should note, however, that Illinois law doesn’t require employers to provide short-term disability benefits. So if you have been injured and need short-term disability benefits, you should consult your human resources department to see what options your employers has available to.

Alternatively, individuals can purchase their own short-term disability insurance. This coverage acts as a financial safety net during periods of temporary inability to work, providing peace of mind and stability while recovering from medical conditions or injuries.

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI)

Social Security Disability insurance is the most complicated regarding eligibility. However, SSD offers substantial financial support and stability to individuals facing long-term disabilities, ensuring they have access to essential benefits to sustain themselves during challenging times. To qualify for SSD benefits, applicants must meet stringent criteria set by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The basic requirements for eligibility are:

  • The person must have been or is expected to be disabled for more than 12 months or result in death.
  • The disability prevents the individual from engaging in substantial gainful activity, as defined by the SSA. In 2024, you cannot earn more than $1,550 ($2,590 if you’re blind).

SSD benefits are only available to those who have worked long enough and have contributed to Social Security disability insurance through employment. The SSA uses work credit requirements to determine this. Additionally, the SSA maintains a comprehensive list of over 100 medical conditions considered disabling for SSD qualification called the Blue Book.

But don’t worry, even if your condition isn’t on the list, you may still be eligible for benefits if you can provide sufficient medical evidence demonstrating the impact on your ability to work. A disability lawyer can help gather this evidence showing how the disability affects your capacity to return to previous work or perform other suitable work based on their age, education, and employment history.

Additional benefits may also be available through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which can benefit those who may not meet the work credit requirements for SSDI or who are over 65 .

What About Workers’ Compensation?

FMLA, short-term disability benefits, and SSD benefits are all available to workers regardless of where they were injured. However, workers’ compensation only provides financial assistance to applicants whose disability was caused by a work injury. It’s important to know the difference as workers’ compensation requires another set of eligibility guidelines and may not be available to every Illinois employee.

There are several forms of workers’ compensation available including:

  • Medical Benefits
  • Temporary Total Disability (TTD)

  • Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)

  • Permanent Total Disability (PTD)

Speaking to a workers’ compensation attorney can help determine which type of coverage will best suit your needs.

How a Lawyer Can Help

For any injury or disability that interferes with your ability to work, having an experienced lawyer in your corner can greatly increase your chances of being approved and receiving maximum compensation. Different government agencies process each application. A lawyer will know the nuances of each application and how to ensure you have the strongest case moving forward, helping to better secure you and your family’s financial future.

Even if you are unsure where to start or which coverage you should apply for, speaking to a disability attorney sooner rather than later will go a long way. At Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers, we go to great lengths to fight for each and every one of our clients who deserve a break.

For a FREE case review, contact us today at (312) 600-6000 and find out why thousands say… Larry wins!

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The Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers is one of the most successful law firms serving the greater Chicago and Tampa areas. As the leader in Injury, Disability, Workers’ Comp, and Employment Law, with more than $1 Billion in recoveries, The Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers has been named One of the Most Influential Law Firms in America by Trial Lawyer Magazine.

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